"Time to get real." Coalition meets to assess county needs

Sgt. Maurice Box of the Tennessee Counterdrug Taskforce facilitates a meeting of the newly-formed Decatur County Wellness and Prevention Coalition Tuesday night at the Parsons Municipal Building. 

Folks in Decatur County still care about others! That was evident Tuesday night as concerned residents filled the meeting room of the Parsons Municipal Building for a community assessment of the Decatur County Wellness and Prevention Coalition. People from all areas gave their input of the needs, resources, problems and gaps that need to be closed in order to work toward getting good results.

Sgt. Maurice Box of the Tennessee Counterdrug Taskforce, located in Nashville, provided insight for the group. A list of issues were collected and then the top three were prioritized. Those three problems included (1) drugs (2) coping skills and (3) faith-based community activities for youth.

Although drugs and alcohol are a large problem, they are not the only problems in the county. Other issues added to the list included: pregnancy care/crisis and alternatives to abortion; education on the names of available drugs and ways they are abused; where to go in times of crisis; need for faith-based counseling; domestic abuse/anger, especially when drugs are involved; ease of getting drugs in Decatur County; lack of life skills in youth; poverty and not having the basic necessities; lack of tougher laws; ineffective programs; drugs in jail; central list/place of resources available in times of crisis, and a big need for programs to help family and friends who are dealing with recovering addicts.

According to Sgt. Box, the coalition needs to “get down to the nitty gritty” and find out why these problems exist in Decatur County and then “get real.”

“Don’t sugar coat,” Sgt. Box announced to the crowd. “Get to the roots of the problems. I can’t come in here and tell you what is going on in your area. That’s what you have to do.”

Sgt. Box said in order to get a real assessment of the county, five areas need to be looked at: history, demographics, problems, needs and resources.

Several attendees pointed out that because of the drug problems, many of the other issues come into play. A recent survey of Tennesseans 18 years old and older found an alarming 373,000 acknowledged they had an alcohol or illicit drug addiction. Among youth, ages 12-17, 26,000 admitted to an alcohol and drug dependence, about a quarter of all Tennesseans say they use tobacco products. Numbers for the vaping problem was not available.

The new coalition can promote health and wellness and their impact can be far reaching. According to Tennessee’s behavior-health/substance abuse services, there are eight ways the coalition can benefit Decatur County. The county needs to increase the number of community permanent prescription drug take-back boxes; conduct community based drug take-back events; work to standardize penalties for alcohol and drug offenders; education for individuals handling alcoholic beverage transactions; post anti-drug, anti-alcohol and anti-smoking billboards in the community; offer a reward for information on illegal drug activities/manufacturing and engage youth to participate in drug, alcohol and tobacco-free efforts.

The Decatur County Wellness and Prevention Coalition is made up of people who care and want to make Decatur County a safer place for the young and old alike. It is made up of people from all walks of life.

What about you? Do you care? Do you know what’s going on in your area? Do you want to help identify and solve existing problems?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then mark your calendar for the next coalition meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Parsons Municipal Building. You can make a difference.

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